Guest Editorial: Permanently reauthorize Land and Water Conservation Fund
We were disappointed that Congress has allowed the expiration of a fund that, since 1964, has helped provide for parks and conservation projects throughout the country, but we remain hopeful that Congress will still act to restore it.
The Land and Water Conservation Fund generates revenue from offshore oil and gas leases in be invested national forests, parks and recreational areas. At least it did until Sept. 30, when Congress allowed it to expire.
Over the years, the fund has been incredibly beneficial for New Mexico. It has contributed more than $312 million for conservation and recreation projects in every county in New Mexico, including Young Park and Pioneer Women’s Park in Las Cruces.
That is probably why there is strong bipartisan support for restoring the fund, as well as local support, as was demonstrated during a news conference at Young Park calling on Congress to act before the fund had expired.
U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich; U.S. Reps Michelle Lujan Grisham and Ben Ray Lujan; NM Sen. Howie Morales; NM Rep. Stephanie Garcia Richard; and candidates Xochitl Torres Small and Deb Haaland all signed off on a guest column that ran in the Sun-News last week calling for the fund to be made permanent.
“We believe that the essential component of stewardship is leaving our state and our lands better than we received them. In order to do that we must permanently reauthorize the Land and Water Conservation Fund,” they said.
U.S. Rep. Steve Pearce, the only Republican in the state’s congressional delegation, said he supports reauthorization, but with reforms, including the addition of a bill he sponsored that would mandate the land be reserved for hunting, fishing and shooting; and would allow the fund to be used for road and trail maintenance.
The U.S. House and Senate are both working on legislation to bring back the fund. The Senate Energy and natural Resources Committee has passed two bills out of committee, one to permanently restore the fund, and a second bill that would create a new fund for maintenance.
On the House side, Republican Rob Bishop and Democrat Raul Grijalva are working together on a bipartisan agreement to permanently reauthorize the fund and address and maintenance backlog.
Sen. Richard Burr, a Republican from North Carolina, told The Associated press that the Land and Water Conservation Fund was one of the most popular and effective programs Congress has ever created.
With all of that support, it is hard to understand how the fund was allowed to expire. That is why when the fund is restored, it must be permanent, so it can’t be held hostage by lawmakers seeking leverage on other issues.
Las Cruces Sun-News, Oct. 9